I want to play sports in college! A few things to consider:
Level of Talent:
How good are you? No, really. How good are you? There are so many opportunities to play sports in college, from the intramural level all the way up to Division 1 college athletics. The range is wide, so it’s important to know the varying levels and degrees of difference among them:
Intramural sports: Non-competitive, plentiful, and the focus is fun. Most colleges have loads of intramural teams and the competition is against your fellow classmates.
Club sports: There’s a wide range here. Some university club sports are mainly for fun and for the student who also likes an intramural experience. Some club teams are quite competitive and will require a try-out once you’re on campus and/or have very elite-level athletes who go on to the Olympics and/or Nationals (ie: University of Delaware Figure Skating Club).
Nationally sanctioned sports: The highest level of sports will come with Division 1 athletics in the NCAA. You’ll be competing at the top of your game against the most talented and driven…but you’ll also have to accept sacrifices of missing out on social aspects of college, lots of travel and balancing schoolwork with demanding training while maintaining minimum credit levels and GPA. Know the pros and cons. Also make sure you know your options:
NCAA, NAIA, USCAA, NJCAA…:
Once you know your level and competition, ask yourself why you want to play sports in college: For fun? To go pro? To try to improve your chances of getting into a better college? The answer to this will determine your next steps and help guide you to the right fit.
Research all of the different collegiate student-athlete governing boards. Of course, the NCAA is the most well known with its three divisions of play: D1, D2 and D3. Where do you fit in? Where do you want to fit in? How will you approach the process? Start early…and keep in mind that finding your fit will be the golden ticket…
Finding Your Match:
Reality-check: How competitive are you at your sport and in the context of global and national student-athletes? Do your research on stats and get an objective opinion and advisor. This advisor should be a third-party, someone who can effectively and honestly guide you.
Scholarships are difficult to come by: Before even concluding that you hope for a scholarship, back up and assess yourself. From both an athletic standpoint and academic standpoint, do your stats put you at a D-1 level? How are your grades and test scores? Remember that the NCAA mandates very detailed and strict guidelines both for its student athletes and for its coaches. There is no getting around that. Identify your level and then start to set up your timeline.
Manage the Process:
If you’re going for D1 or D2, you’ll need to set up a very thoughtful timeline for three things: your High School career; your recruiting strategy; your application strategy (that includes your essays, taking SAT/ACT and TOEFL if necessary, when to turn in your application, etc.). Most important? Owning the process as a student: you reach out, ask the questions, find your fit (of course with your parent’s input and support). You must drive this process. This is the only way to be respected by coaches and to find your match in the process.
Quick Tips by Grade:
9th & 10th Grades:
- Grades: keep these as high as possible.
- Curriculum: check on your courses and future courses and look at eligibility guidelines of the conferences you hope to play for (ie: NCAA, NAIA, etc.)
- Work with your counselor and coach simultaneously and articulate your goals clearly to them
- Understand and become familiar with all eligibility requirements. They can change annually so stay-tuned in the upcoming years.
- Create a sports CV and highlights portfolio.
- You cannot contact or be contacted by a coach until after July of your 11th Grade year (NCAA)
- Register for Eligibility Centers
- Don’t be represented by an agent
- Draw up a long-list of universities and programs that interest you
- Create a Standardized Testing Plan.
- Work with your counselor to reassess and stay realistic: which colleges and programs are a fit for you both academically and athletically?
- Keep focusing on your grades
- Reach out to coaches, but do not call them until after 1 July after 11th Grade. After 1 July, official visits can be granted and you can speak to coaches on and off campus.
- Take SAT/ACT/TOEFL/Subject Tests (if needed)
- Remember not all programs or coaches are the same: do your research and keep notes
- Send transcripts to the NCAA
- Retake SAT/ACT/…
- Apply to universities—early!
- Have all transcripts and test scores sent by your High School Guidance Counselor
- Sign only one Letter of Intent and not before the National Letter of Intent signing date
- Thank your coaches, counselors, parents and supporters. A hand-written note goes a long way.
Written by Jennifer Aquino, Director at Atelier Education, a boutique educational consulting firm specializing in working with international students and families around the globe. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.ateliereducation.com. Jennifer is Associate Member, IECA and Member, OACAC and is based in Singapore.